The United States and the Asia Pacific (APAC) region are on opposite sides of the globe, and these two areas are typically thought to be culturally different from each other. While the WLI’s research on women in the real estate and land use industry highlighted some differences between these two geographies in terms of what women value in the workplace and what they believe they need to achieve professional success, it also revealed important similarities shared by women in both regions.
One key similarity pertained to having an employer that is receptive to flexibility-related needs. It is further important to note that, for both geographies, this conversation went beyond the need for flexible/generous maternity leave. While survey respondents in both geographies certainly indicated that they need their companies to formally provide maternity leave, they also expressed that their ability to achieve success is enhanced when their employers formally offer them the ability to find flexibility during other periods in their lives.
Also noted by both geographies as critical to women’s professional success were the following:
Culture and internal relationships ranked in both the United States and APAC as two of the most critical informal structures that work to support women’s professional success. Access to visible and challenging job assignments, along with the enactment of objective hiring and promotion policies, showed to be slightly more important to U.S. survey respondents, but APAC respondents still highlighted them as key components in supporting their professional success.
Furthermore, women in both geographies expressed ambitious career aspirations, setting their sights on reaching leadership levels at industry organizations. Women in the both United States and APAC also show a fair amount of movement between employers, which could potentially occur as part of their search for more responsibility and greater professional growth opportunities.
These similarities suggest the potential existence of a common dialogue and a common drive among women to find professional success. Moreover, this research sends a powerful message to employers about what women need to be successful and where employers should focus their resources in order to most effectively support their female employees.
It is worth noting that WLI’s research uncovered some differences between the two geographies as well. Primary among these differences were the opposing views on the importance of having external relationships. Survey respondents in the United States, and particularly those in the position of CEO, emphasized the significant role that building relationships with industry professionals outside their own organization played in their success. Among APAC respondents, the overall importance of having external relationships was nearly 10 percent lower than it was for U.S. respondents. In addition, the APAC respondents who placed the highest level of importance on these relationships categorized themselves as senior leaders, directors, and managers, versus the C-suite positions held by the group of U.S. survey respondents who deemed these external relationships most important. APAC respondents also indicated specifically that companies should deprioritize any focus on providing female employees the opportunity to build external relationships. One explanation for this difference could be that the real estate and land use field in APAC is smaller and much more concentrated in certain areas, whereas in the United States, the industry comprises a diverse array of companies across the country. The different geographical reach of these industries could mean that female employees in APAC see more value in investing in and developing relationships within their organizations than they do in forging connections outside their organizations. U.S. professionals, on the other hand, may view the industry as much more connected across a broad geography and may find benefit in making connections with other professionals across the country.
Another significant difference pertains to perceptions around pace of career progression among different generations. The U.S. research found that younger women at the start of their careers feel like they are progressing faster than expected, whereas midcareer women are more likely to feel stalled. Among APAC respondents, the opposite was true: both younger women (those categorized as millennials and gen-Xers) and women with less than five years of experience in the field were 5 percent to17 percent more likely than older women and women with more experience in the industry to say that they feel their career progress is lagging behind their expectations or desires. Younger, less experienced female professionals in the real estate and land use field in APAC could potentially be more likely to feel their career progress is lagging because they have high expectations that their companies simply are not meeting. As the WLI’s APAC survey data showed, many of the survey respondents’employers are not providing their female employees with the tools they require to achieve success. In the United States, this industry has already caught up with the fast-paced desires and aspirations of female employees. As the real estate and land use industry in APAC continues to grow and evolve,particularly in its ability to provide formal and informal career development structures for its female employees, younger women and those women who are newer to the industry may see a shift in their career progression timelines. This difference should serve as a strong indicator to APAC employers, however, that their female employees—and particularly their younger female employees who can grow into the next generation of leaders—are looking for more opportunities and support from their organizations.
Data about the importance of formal training programs revealed a third discrepancy between U.S. and APAC survey respondents. The former indicated that training programs are not one of the most important factors in supporting their success. The latter, on the other hand, prioritized this as one of their top three most critical formal offerings their companies can provide to support their professional achievement. This suggests a difference between the regions in the level of credence that employers give to their employees’ technical knowledge, and it further shows an area to which APAC employers may need to dedicate additional resources. Another possibility is that robust training programs already exist at many U.S.-based real estate and land use companies to the point where employees assume they will receive formal training; as such, they may not necessarily focus on the importance of this training in supporting their success.
A final and significant difference appeared in the comparison between the professional aspirations of U.S.-based women to those of APAC-based women. In the United States, 62 percent of survey respondents indicated that they aspire to reach C-suite-level positions or to start their own company (i.e., work as an entrepreneur or a sole proprietor). In APAC, the overall response rate of the same statistics was just 47 percent. Furthermore, 19 percent of APAC survey respondents indicated that they aspire to serve in mid-level management positions. When WLI broke these data out country by country, it discovered that 62 percent of respondents in Singapore and 58 percent in Australia aspire to C-suite or entrepreneur/sole proprietor positions—these numbers are much closer to those from the United States than the overall average numbers in APAC. Data for Hong Kong, however, dipped to 44 percent, and in China, just 23 percent of respondents say they aspire to sit in the C-suite or run their own business. More women in Hong Kong and China said they strive to hold senior-level leadership positions below the C-suite (30 percent in Hong Kong and 34 percent in China) or to sit at a middle management level (20 percent in Hong Kong and 41 percent in China). One possible explanation for the variation among countries could be that in-country influences, such as culture and societal norms, have a strong influence on female employees’ aspirations. In addition, since these statistics apply only to women who work in the real estate and land use industry, it is further possible that there are industry-specific influencers that are driving female employees’ career aspirations.
Even in light of these differences, the overall recommended actions that companies can take to address their female employees’ needs and to support these individuals’ ability to achieve success are relatively similar across geographies. The differences are important to note because they might affect the details of the plans that companies create to address their female employees’ needs, yet the overall themes and focus areas remain, for the most part, the same across these two areas of the world.